Rabbi Nachum of Chernobyl would strongly encourage the Jewish custom of conducting a seudat mitzvah (a feast celebrating a mitzvah). Whenever he heard of a circumcision, bar mitzvah, wedding or siyum[1] that was to take place, he would hasten to participate, and urge that the meal be as lavish as possible. Often he would contribute toward the expenses of a seudat mitzvah for a needy family, to ensure that a feast was prepared as merited the occasion.

Once, Rabbi Nachum explained his particular affinity for mitzvah celebrations. “One year,” he told, “when the fate of Israel was to be decided in the heavenly court on Rosh Hashanah, the prosecuting angel came with a huge load of sins, G-d forbid, which he placed on the demeritorious side of the great balance scale. Michoel, the supernal advocate of Israel, brought a load of mitzvot, but alas, these failed to tip the scales to the side of merit.

“At this point, the defending angel argued before the court: ‘It is true that there are more sins than mitzvot, but the balance between them is not being gauged properly. When a Jew does a mitzvah, he does it with a joyous heart, elated at the opportunity to serve his Creator. His transgressions, on the other hand, occur at a moment of weakness; they are done without enthusiasm, and with a heart already heavy with regret. Thus, each mitzvah should, by rights, outweigh many transgressions in the calculations of this court.’

“ ‘Can you prove to us that this is indeed the case,’ challenged the prosecuting angel.

“ ‘Certainly,’ said Michoel. ‘Observe, if you will, what happens when a Jew does a mitzvah: he prepares a lavish feast, and invites his friends to come share in his joy in having merited to fulfill a divine commandment. Now tell me: have you ever seen a Jew throw a party to celebrate the fact that he has transgressed the divine will…?’ ”



[1]. Celebration upon the completion of the study of a tractate in the Talmud.


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